What direct reports and co-workers expect from a Lead Product Manager

In this article I give my take on Larry Bossidy’s article “What Your Leaders Expects of You” published in April’s Harvard Business Review and “..What is Expected from Product Managers..” Where I report what senior managers expected from me as their Product Manager.

Identify what your line manager, MD, and other senior stakeholders expect from their Product Manager is only half of the story. It is just as important to understand what your direct reports and co-workers in other department expect from you and work hard to fulfil them. I have seen a few middle managers become so focussed on keeping the chief executives happy that they forget, neglect and even ignore their direct reports and co-workers. Taking such a stance can only threatens ones future career prospects and hinder current performance. Colleagues may become resentful in going the extra mile.

My Take on Larry Bossidy’s article is as follows:
Provide clarity of direction: Understand what your reports have to do on a daily basis – lead, direct and as well as manage.
  • Set goals and direction: Communicate their goals in the context of the goals of the team, group, department and company.
  • Give frequent, specific, and immediate feedback: provide feedback in a timely manor and in context.
  • Be decisive and timely: Do not delay in acting irrespective or whether the task is agreeable to our feeling or not.
  • Be accessible: Try not to be so busy that you do not have time to sit down and have regular (ad hoc as well as official) catch-ups with your direct reports.
  • Demonstrate honesty and candor: Be honest, upfront and direct but not blunt, rude or insulting.
  • Offer an equitable compensation plan: Recognise and reward high performers.

Compare this academic report with a practical survey where direct feedback from Product Managers to their Lead Product Manager.

  • Guidance on the company’s web strategy & how it applies to the online products I manage.
  • Knowledge sharing of web strategy & new technology being used.
  • Support in resolving issues & difficulties.
  • Help in developing new skills and career.
  • Fairly access performance & help improve it and processes & working practice.
  • Leadership: leading the product manager(s).
  • Performance appraisal on a regular basis.
  • Training, coaching and guidance for my role of being a new Product Manager.
  • Communication and direction given from higher in the food chain.
  • Openness – easy for me to approach you regarding work and how my projects are going.
  • Recognition of my contribution to department.

A comparison of the two lists highlights that both Larry and the Product Managers who report to me are saying similar things. The following are key point that co-workers expect from their Product Manager.

Feedback from Commercial Stakeholders

  • Delivery to agreed timescales.
  • Communication of any issues or risks with suggestions of solutions
  • Innovative approach, always looking to improve process and technology
  • Maintaining effective channels of communication with all key stakeholders.
  • Be on hand to lend expertise regarding possibilities for advertising and development on the site.
  • Keep team updated on any problems on the site that interfere with advertising or performance.
  • Be the bridge between the commercial team and developers for site developments
  • Keep me updated on development/deployments we’re requesting for the site and any delays.
  • First point of contact for any technical problems on the site.

Feedback from Technical Team Leader

  • Coordinating with the business and the development team to ensure that there is a common understanding of priorities.
  • Collaborating with the development team leader to ensure that product managers, developers and business owners understand and accept their responsibilities as we proceed with implementing new processes (SCRUM).
  • Performing the role of Scrum Master for a number of sites.
  • Collaborating with the development team leader to manage the relationship between product managers, developers and the business.
  • Contributing to the Release process when required.
  • Infrastructure team aware of the importance of a particular release.

Different groups will expect different things from you. It is important to know who expects what and how you can full fill your co-workers and direct reports expectations. Failure to do so could not only threaten your current performance but stifle your career. However by asking the simple question “what do you expect of me” and making the appropriate adjustments could lead to increased performance resulting in an increased ROI and a greater chance of career progression.
What do you expect from your co-workers?

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